Published Date: 01/02/20
At the playground, you’ll find some parents letting their kids strip away shoes and socks and run around with abandon.
There are others who insist their children keep shoes on when they play. Maybe they think a foot injury is inevitable, or fear dirt and germs.
If you’re one of those parents who insists shoes be kept on, fear not. First, according to the Washington Post, “Both children and adults who go barefoot frequently also have a heightened sense of their surroundings and can easily spot a sharp object they need to avoid. Children’s feet also toughen up the more they go barefoot, leading to more natural protection.”
If it’s germs you’re afraid of, consider that disease is far more likely to be transmitted by your child’s hands than their feet. They may put hands in their mouth, eat without washing, or simply wipe their nose with their hand (children are notorious for eschewing tissues), introducing germs into their system. Skin is designed to keep pathogens out, but noses and mouths are where illnesses enter.
Shoes are actually great for holding bacteria and moisture against your skin, which can lead to athlete’s foot and toe fungus.
The benefits of going barefoot are plentiful, according to experts and research.
In an article in New York Magazine, Adam Steinberg addressed studies that show that humans had healthier feet before shoes were ever invented.
“It took 4 million years to develop our unique human foot and our consequent distinctive form of gait… in only a few thousand years, and with one carelessly designed instrument, our shoes, we have warped the pure anatomical form of human gait, obstructing its engineering efficiency, afflicting it with strains and stresses and denying it its natural grace of form and ease of movement head to foot,” said Podiatrist Dr. William A. Rossi.
Beyond healthy feet, in babies and toddlers being barefoot actually benefits brain and nervous system development. Dr. Kacie Flegal specializes in pediatrics and wrote, “One of the simplest ways to motivate proprioceptive and vestibular development is to let our babies be barefoot as much as possible.” She adds, “Another benefit to keeping babies barefoot is the encouragement of presence of mind and conscious awareness. As the little pads of babies’ feet feel, move, and balance on the surface that they are exploring, the information sent to the brain from tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular pathways quiet, or inhibit, other extraneous sensory input. This creates focus and awareness of walking and moving through space; babies get more tuned in to their surroundings.”
Revolutionary Parent Radio is a show that is dedicated to helping people raise physically and psychologically healthy kids. Founder Kevin Geary says that shoes can harm children by preventing proper toe spread. This prevents the foot from functioning properly and can make children more likely to injure their feet and lower legs.
Going barefoot, however, strengths feet and the lower leg, which can help prevent injury in the long term. It also helps children develop body awareness. Geary told the Washington Post that our feet are particularly sensitive (the feet are typically the most ticklish part of your body, with over 2000,000 nerve endings). Humans can balance, climb, and pivot better when barefoot than with shoes on.
With all of the proven benefits of naked feet, next time your child asks to play barefoot, you can say ‘yes’ knowing it’s great for their development.
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